Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fallen Friend


John 15:13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

This man sitting across the table holds up a picture of his boy.  He looks me straight in the eye, all smiles, light gleaming in his eyes, and says, "This is my son.  I lost him in the war nine months ago." He smiles big, and all I see is white as his teeth overshadow his dark skin, his joy overshadowing the pain I see underneath.

He keeps holding up the picture of his boy, so young and handsome in his uniform.  His eyes are filled with pride, but mine fill with tears as I stare at the photo and ponder this father's sacrifice. I look back into his eyes, and quietly say,  "I am so sorry," but those words feel inadequate for  a man who raised up his boy to die for my freedom.  


He hands me final papers to sign for the new car I purchased just days earlier, and this man just signed the final papers for his son.  My three girls  lay on the floor next to his desk, playing and laughing, all free, and this smiling man just laid his boy in the ground, laid his fallen seed down deep in the soil.  


He tells me he's excited for me about the car, but I cannot move past the picture of the boy, of this man's fallen seed.  I attempt to thank him for the sacrifice, for the life laid down for my freedom, but there are no words to express that kind of gratitude. 


I look in the eyes of this man, and I know that I could never begin to understand the pain he has experienced, the accepting of the death of his own seed. 


When accepting that his own death was imminent, Christ said to his Father in the garden of Gethsemane, 


"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 


I think of my own Gethsemane's and know how small they have been in comparison to the giving of a son. And I am reminded that God has been speaking to me about the blooms that come forth as a result of dying to myself, out of the pressing out of my will in my own little Gethsemanes.  And the very first words I ever wrote in a journal were God's words from John.    "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds."  


Now I sit across from this man dying to his will as he accepts the falling of his seed. But Jesus said the falling of the seed is what makes a man a friend, that "Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends." The photo now lies on his desk just beside the final papers, and I stare at this stranger in uniform, this fallen seed that Jesus says is not a stranger but my friend. 


Several months later, my girls and I spend the afternoon in my father's garden.  Just a few months before, the seed had been laid in the ground, and now the flowers are blooming on the plant just before the fruit is to come forth.  Some of the fruit is ready to be harvested so we fill our baskets, then decide to pick up our paints on this lazy Saturday afternoon.


My children and I choose to paint flowers, all red and white.  They lay down paint, then run off to play, leaving the painting unfinished.


We pack up our things, drive back past all the blooms coming forth in the garden and make our way home. Upon arriving, I place the painting on the counter in my office.   It stays there for several weeks until one day as I am passing by, I glance at the red and white flowers, and the father with the photo of his fallen seed flashes through my mind. The man whose life has been painted red and white, the colors of sacrifice and surrender. Then I remember that Memorial Day is just around the corner, and I now know who this painting is for.   So I pick up my paints, and I add blue to complete the picture of freedom.  Because true freedom only comes in the surrender to the sacrifice, to the dying of our will so that the fallen seed can produce many seeds.


Then Katie and I stamp out the reference to the verse in John, the one that tells me that his boy, that his seed laid in the ground has been a friend to me.


So on Memorial Day we take this painting, this seed of gratitude, and we drive down to the car dealership to find the father of the fallen seed. I tell the clerk at the desk that I'm looking for the man who lost his son in the war. No one in the building seems to know anyone there who has lost a son so they send me to the next building over, and as we walk, I wonder if he still works here.  It’s been nine months since he showed me the photo of his boy, and I wonder if I am too late to plant this seed of gratitude.  "I should have come sooner," I think to myself. But I find him in the building next door, and He walks out to greet me, all full of life and joy.


I hand him the gift with the painting inside and a note for he and his wife that tells them their son has been a friend to me, the kind of friend that Jesus was.


He smiles and thanks me for the package, and all I see is white teeth again, the light of his smile shining bright next to the black of his skin.  He says with joy that his son is doing just fine, that he is in heaven, in a much better place.  As I look in his eyes, the light reflects off rings of blue around his pupils, that color that completed my painting of freedom.  His eyes look angelic almost, and I sense how this man is surrendering to the sacrifice, is finding freedom.  He inspires me to surrender to my own daily dyings, these small Gethsemanes that I tend to resist.  He lets the fallen seed become many as he plants one in my heart just by looking at me with those eyes somehow gleaming with joy, somehow being my friend in all his surrender. 


We drive away from the dealership, and I feel kind of silly for bringing the gift because this man seems so joyful in the midst of his sacrifice. I begin to doubt if I have heard from God, and start wondering if this was my idea rather than his, but my daughter turns the radio to a station we rarely listen to, and a man is speaking about the fallen, and he quotes John, says "Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends."   I look at my daughter and smile, tell her that's the same verse that we stamped on the painting.  Her eyes grow wide, and I rejoice as I think of how faithful he is to confirm.  He makes it clear that He has spoken, confirms for me that the painting was his seed, His word being planted to bring forth blooms. 


My husband calls me several days later and tells me the father of the boy  has called, that he has something for me down at the dealership.  So I stop by to see the father, and his desk is full of gifts for me from the mother of his fallen seed. 


I tell him he's given me enough, that the painting was a God thing, just a way to thank him.  I see glimpses of pain in his eyes as he replies, "God still has some work to do in my heart, but it is time to give back."


So I accept his flowers and gifts, hug this stranger-friend of a man, and I drive away in my white car holding these blooms that grew from seeds.  And I see the white flags of surrender in his eyes. And I know that the seed fallen will become many because this father knows the truth, that the only way to heal is to love, to let our plans and the seeds of our flesh die so that the blooms can come forth. This father's son has laid down his life,  and now this father also stands before me dying, laying his life down for his friends, surrendering to the sacrificial life, to the plan that was not his so that his fallen seed will become many.


As I pull in my driveway, I see the first blooms that have opened in the wild flowers my husband and my girls planted early this spring.  And I thank God for seeds laid in the ground that bring forth beauty like this...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Be Still



Psalm 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.”

I lie still on the massage table as she attempts to loosen this tight rope running down my spine.  She tells me to relax since there is nothing I can do to assist her in her work.  My job is to simply breathe deep and be still as she massages out the toxins and impurities. She reminds me to breathe, tells me not to resist, so I breathe deep through all her kneading and pressing.
As I lie still, I think of the picture that my four-year-old Katie colored just recently. She has rarely drawn anything other than smiley faces and rainbows, but in the midst of all my resentment and frustration with these bodily restrictions, she smiles, holds up a picture, and says. “It’s you, Mommy, you're sleeping on a boat.” I smile back, tell her it is a beautiful picture, but what God speaks to me is even more beautiful. He reminds me of the time Jesus slept in the boat in the midst of the storm.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)

So God used the storm to display his glory, to show the disciples who He was.  And they were the ones who should have been sleeping, fully trusting in their Lord to care for them. Sleeping like a child in the boat because the God of the universe was at the helm.  Breathing deep through the storm. 

And now I see how I sound just like the disciples, asking Jesus, "Don't you care if I drown?"  "Don’t you care if I drown in doctor appointments, and frustrations and disappointments of these bodily restrictions?" I ask, but I see Katie’s picture, and I hear Jesus whisper, Peace, be still.  The only thing you are drowning in is unbelief.  It is the resentment of your restraints that actually restrains you.  Breathe deep, lie still, and trust me.  The calming of the storm will display my glory and will teach you who I am...

So I lie still, and I breathe deep as the therapist presses her elbow into my sciatic nerve.  The pain is more than I can bear, and as she presses, tears are in danger of being pressed out. I try to relax, breathe through the pain, but I have not felt pain like this since the birthing of children, of breathing deep to get to the joy on the other side.  And I remember that my life was birthed through Jesus’ pain, through his sweating of blood and acceptance of a cup in Gethsemane. A cup that He willingly took.  "Take this cup away from me," He said. "Yet not my will, but thine be done."

I think of that word “Gethsemane” and how it means olive press and how the enormous pressure of the stones of the press pressed out every drop of oil from the olives, so that not a single drop was wasted. And I know that not a single drop of Jesus' blood was wasted, and God reminds me that my pain will never be wasted, even as the tears threaten to be pressed out.

Her strong hands massage the knots and toxins out of my muscles making them more supple, causing them to move more freely.  “You think I torture you," she says "but it is for your good..."  So I submit to the pressure, breathe deep, allow the tears to be pressed out.

I wanted to scream at God the other day for all his pressing, question him for these 15 years of back and neck issues, but then I hear him whisper,
I’m teaching you to breathe, to be still in the storm, remembering that I am God. It's the breathing deep, the resting in the storm,  the sleeping in the boat, that allows Me to massage out the impurities, these things that keep you bound, this resenting of restraints that restrains you even more, this will of yours that needs to be pressed out so that I can bring wholeness and healing, so that your love for me is more pure, so that your love for others is more pure.  

Father, your love for your people made Jesus press out blood in Gethsemane and maybe your love for your people makes me press out tears on this table, on this olive press...

Paul said,  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)

She finishes her pressing out of this mortal body, then tells me to stand up slowly and get dressed.  I clothe myself, walk out of the massage parlor, and as I am driving away, I see that the name of the spa is “Rejoice,” and I am reminded that Paul tells me to rejoice in my sufferings, in these light and momentary troubles.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.”  Colossians 1:24

So as my tears press out, Christ fills these cups that I wish he would take from me, but as I take the cup, he fills up what is lacking in Christ in my flesh.  So I take the cup at this Gethsemane, this olive press pressing out my own will, that will which can only hinder Christ’s beautiful body, the Church.  Because it is the taking of cups in Gethsemane that allows my cup to overflow. So I swallow hard, and I breathe deep, and I get still, and I know that He is God…




Friday, May 11, 2012

Naked Bride



Isaiah 61:10 
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
my soul shall be joyful in my God;
for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments,
and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels”

I prepare my palette and easel for the first day of the painting workshop. I have come to a master class to learn from one of the masters. Wedding dresses are draped across two chairs on pedestals, one on either side of the room. The nude model makes her way toward the chair near my easel, climbs up onto the pedestal and sits on top of the wedding dress.

I am a novice in nude model painting, and am a somewhat modest girl so I cannot help but imagine myself up in the chair completely naked and exposed in front of a group of men and women. I imagine how I would comport myself, how I would hold my shoulders high trying to appear confident to cover up the insecurity I would feel underneath.

The dress drapes over the arms of the chair, light reflecting on the creases and folds in shades of blue and green. I study the model for the lights and darks as I am told.  Her profile is in shadow, and I can hardly see her face for the bright light coming from the window. She is mostly shadow until her chest held high catches the light. The figure begins to tell a story, begins to speak, and I see myself in her, a woman who has wedding clothes within her reach but chooses to sit unclothed.

I hear the instructor say, "Paintings are meant to wake us up.” So I study the naked bride, and begin to awake. I awake to truth as I contrast light and dark, as the image of a naked bride runs through my mind.

I am reminded of the dream I had years ago where Jesus and two faceless men were waiting for me at the end of an underground cave. Jesus was standing, waiting for me like a bridegroom awaiting his bride at the end of the aisle. I walked toward him, and as I drew closer, I could see how his eyes adored me and how they were filled with love and compassion, and as I finally made my way to him, he wrapped his arms around me and embraced me.  I felt his deep love in the embrace but it felt strange to hug him back because I knew I was in a relationship with him, but I didn't really know him. The bride was betrothed to a stranger, but it was not him that did not know me. It was me that did not know him. His eyes were not angry with me as I would have imagined,  only full of love and compassion, only full of mercy and grace for the bride who had forsaken her garments of salvation and all that he had to offer in the previous years.

And then Jesus held up a stone tablet like the one Moses would have etched the ten commandments on, and it simply said, “Ecclesiastes 11:3” which reads, "If clouds are full of water they pour rain upon the earth."

So instead of the law of Moses, he etched Ecclesiastes 11:3 in stone. For years, I was puzzled by the verse, had no earthly idea why God had spoken to me about clouds and rain, but just recently, he revealed the full meaning, that as a cloud cannot help but empty itself when it is full of rain, my heart cannot help but empty itself when it is full of the love of Christ. That's simply what hearts do when they are full of the tears of remembrance of what Christ has done, they rain out love upon the earth as a result of that remembrance.

So Christ’s work fulfilled the law and etched a love story in stone, a romance between he and his bride.  And as he clothes his bride with garments of salvation, Christ fills her heart with his love, so that she cannot help but empty herself, cannot help but pour out the love that he places in her heart.

I pick up my brush and continue to paint the lightest lights and darkest darks as my painting wakes me up, and I clearly see what is in the light and what is in the dark.  I study the naked bride before me, and I see that her bare chest is one of the lightest lights, and I begin to hear Jesus whisper, "Your bare chest, your naked heart is the lightest light of this life I have given you. The baring of your soul, of all that you are in me, that is the way you shine the light of Christ. The bride undresses for her bridegroom because she knows how deeply she is loved, because the baring of a soul, the nakedness of a heart, is what shines the lightest light of Christ, is what shows the world a child of God knows she is loved. 

So I hold onto the truth that I am dressed in your garments, pure and white, so that I can undress, bare my soul, be myself. And there is no longer shame in baring my chest, in exposing my naked heart, when I am walking in the knowledge that I am clothed in him.

I shift my focus away from the bride and look toward the window. I struggle to paint the light pouring through it, because how does one portray the light when it is not reflected on form?  And maybe God asked himself the same question.  How do I portray my light, my love to my bride if it doesn’t have form? So he sent his son in the form of a servant. God clothed himself in human flesh, gave himself form, reflected himself through it, then gave up that life so that we could see his light, so that He could rescue his bride, make her all light, clothe her in his garments of salvation, white and pure for eternity. 

My four-year-old Katie asks me as I am writing, "What is the end of the numbers?" And I tell her that there is no end to the numbers, that they go on forever, and I am reminded that God’s love for me, for his bride, has no end, and that my years are no longer numbered, that the numbers will go on forever and ever.  So how can a girl whose years have no end not bare her chest, not open her heart to share what Christ has done, not separate darkness, not put away all that is in shadow, so that others can be clothed in the eternal garments of Christ.

I see the model reaching for her dark dress that lays crumpled under her chair, so I step away from my paints to hand her the dress, but I wonder if I should have handed her the wedding clothes instead. And I wonder how often I hide my heart, keep it in shadow, and in all my hiding, give people back their old clothes, instead of the dress that is white and pure.

I read just yesterday that shadows can only exist where an obstacle stands in the path of the light, and now I clearly see how the hiding heart stands in the path of the light. So I  separate light from darkness, stop forgetting that I am clothed in Christ and start holding onto the truths that are within my reach, the truth that I am His beloved bride dressed in white, all light...

The instructor has told us that just a few streets over, down by the river, the city is blowing up the dam, the man-made obstacle that keeps the water from flowing freely.   They are destroying the dam that the mill owners once used to harness power.  And God speaks to me again, says “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." And I am reminded that out of this bride will flow streams of living water that no man can harness.  And from where does the water in the streams and rivers come except from the rain that pours down upon the earth, these tears that come from the remembrance of what Christ has done. So I wake up to truth and remember that He has clothed me with eternal garments, and my heart fills with the tears of remembrance until they pool into a river of life flowing from within…

So, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”  (Revelations 22:17)

As the water flows freely down the river, the model returns to her chair, and I am reminded that Jesus will also return, that “he is coming in the clouds,” (Rev 1:7) the ones that pour down rain to make rivers. And He is coming to retrieve his beloved bride dressed in white, so I step back to my easel and paint the bare chest and the light reflecting off of her flesh. And I awake to the beautiful truths that my bridegroom speaks as I continue to separate light from darkness…
 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Sends the Rain?

Not for Sale

Job 38:27 Who sends the rain that satisfies the parched ground and makes the tender grass spring up?



I wait in the waiting room at my spine doctor's office. I pray that God would speak through the doctor’s words, that healing words would come. I pray that I would hear something new, something besides the word "no." The “no's” from my neck and back issues echo through my mind as the receptionist calls me back to see the doctor.  


My heart yearning for a “yes”, I sit quietly and wait while he examines my spine.  I then watch the "no" flow freely off the doctor’s tongue, as if it must be of God.  "No painting for a while," he says.  I swallow hard, but the words feel like sandpaper sliding down my throat.  I want to spit them out, but remember that the whale spit Jonah out exactly where He wanted him to go. 

And I remember that I have been hearing the word "rest”, and that like Jonah, I have not listened.  But now, the words of a doctor come confirming what God has already told me. But I can’t help but feel swallowed, have felt swallowed for years because I have a plan and God has a different one, and I am tired of praying from the belly of a whale.  Fifteen years of detours from my own silly plans, of praying from a dark belly that can feel lonely and unclean because it doesn’t feel this could be of Him.   The fifteen years of spine therapists and ice packs and quitting and starting over and hope and disappointment and seeking wisdom and waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

I want to ask why.  Why fifteen years of “no's” to the things I love, to the hobbies I enjoy, to the things you have given me a passion for? I tell a friend I want to ask, "Why?" She says, "Why not ask why?"  "Because Job questioned God and got an earful," I say, "and He has given me so much.  How dare I ask why?"  But just before bed, I bend my knees by my bedroom sofa and dare to ask why?

I climb in my bed and dream I am on my way to catch a plane.  An enemy takes me captive and puts me in a prison camp.  There are small one-room buildings lining a dirt sidewalk in the middle of a desert.  It is some sort of a medical camp, sterile and clean.  Somehow clean in the middle of a dusty, desolate wasteland.


My aunt and my mother are there, both of who struggle with similar spine problems.  They take my aunt back first.  I fear for her, don't know where they are taking her, but know I am next.   She enters one of the small rooms. They perform an abrasive procedure, one meant for evil, meant to cause pain...a scrubbing of the skin, a microdermabrasion of sorts.  But she comes out with porcelain white skin, more beautiful than before.  Cleaner and whiter and there is joy in her eyes. She senses her beauty.

The fear loses its grip on me in the dream. I don't feel fearful anymore of what my captor may do.  I feel more focused on the outcome, than on the possibility of pain. 

They come and take me, tell me that the electrodes are stronger in my room.  I feel fear again, but like my aunt, the pain only serves to make me more beautiful, only scrubs away what is dead so that the new skin can come forth. Only sloughs away that which is not needed. 

I wake. I think of the dream and am reminded that what Satan means for evil God means for good.   And what is skin but flesh?  The peeling away of flesh as he makes me new, as he sanctifies and scrubs away.  The doctor’s words sliding like sandpaper sloughing away my fleshly thinking, only serving to bring about something new.

As I write, I feel the claws creep up into my neck again...pulling down and twisting and turning.  The enemy always twisting. He wants to twist this truth, tell me he is winning, remind me he is stealing, but as the enemy steals, my Father scrubs and sloughs away and what Satan meant for evil, God will use for good.  Satan says, "Your neck can't paint and it can't write and God can't complete in you the work he began because of all my twisting and pulling..."

I break from writing, stretch my neck, pace myself to avoid the pain. I take a warm shower, feel the water running warm down my spine. I am reminded of the hemorrhaging woman and the blood that ran down for twelve years. 



A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ”
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  (Mark 5:24-34)



On a smaller scale, I know the isolation she felt, and I know how it feels to see the crowds of healthy people next to Jesus while I am stretching my arm to reach him because He has spent fifteen years stretching my faith. But as the hemorrhaging woman stretched to reach Jesus, it was into her that His power went. Twelve years of suffering and one day of healing but over two thousand years of God's people finding encouragement from her story.

Is that the waiting, Lord? Is there more to the story?  Are the sandpaper words more about my story than my suffering, more about your power than my pain?

I step out of the shower and hear the tornado sirens warning of a storm. The clouds are moving in quickly, and the rain is beginning to pour down. I am reminded that years ago you warned me of a storm. You said, Give way to the storm, like Paul gave way to the nor'easter on his way to Rome.

I remember the tornado years ago that ripped over one hundred trees out of the ground as I slept peacefully on the sofa in front of the living room window.  And Jesus slept through the storm on the boat. And Paul gave way to the storm on his way to Rome, his ship crashing on the shores of Malta where he told the people the good news of Jesus.  "I am taking you to Malta," God says.  "But I wanted to go to Rome," I say. “This isn’t my plan.”

My dog sits next to me shivering as the storm approaches, as the rain pours down. I know he is safe.  I wish he knew.  Wasted energy, all his panting and shaking.

My daughter rounds the corner, tells me I have mail in the paper mailbox we made for our bedroom doors. She has drawn a rainbow for me because God knew I needed one today. Always a rainbow when I start panting and shaking, when I forget how many times you have told me there is one at the end of the storm.

I dress and begin to prepare dinner.   Mary Helen rounds the corner and asks me what a homophone is, says she has to know for her homework. I cannot remember but Google tells me it’s two words that sound the same but have different meanings. Like I and eye.  And I wonder if the I's of my life keep me from seeing through my Savior's eyes, make me determined to write my own story.  The ‘I wants’ and ‘I had hoped's’ and ‘I never's’ and ‘I will not's’. And Pain and pane. Does the resentment of pain cause me to see through fogged up panes? Unclear what He is doing. Stabbing in the dark, it seems...Do his presents sit unopened when I forget about his presence? When I forget He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies, in the presence of my pain.

I hear Virginia's footsteps in the hall.  She has captured a roach and wants holes in the top of the Tupperware so he can breathe.  I poke holes while he scurries, the roach I wish she had crushed with her heel.  I wonder if I make holes for the enemy to breathe when I resist Malta? Father, do I give him breath when You have crushed him with your heel?  I hear Virginia say, "It's okay, little buddy.  I'm helping you out," and she runs to find grass to feed him.  Feeding the one I pay to exterminate.  And I feed the one Jesus paid to crush as I resist and resent.

Three-year-old Katie hugs my leg as I am getting water for the corn. She stands in front of me and says, "I am bigger than you," her head of curls barely at my hip. I kiss her, smile and ask God, "Is this what I do? Size up my suffering next to you?  Perceive it is bigger, taller than you in my childish way of seeing?"

Virginia wants a bunny nose and whiskers painted on her face to go with the ears she has crafted out of leaves. And she cries when I say no and starts to melt down.  "I'm trying to get dinner on," I say,  "The bunny face will have to wait."  But I understand why she stomps her foot and resists the sandpaper words. She had a plan, was in the middle of all her creating.  So I am trying to teach my children to swallow the "not right nows" but I'm struggling to do it myself.

I hear the doctor’s words echo in my mind again.   He says, “Your neck is too straight, has lost the curve over time that absorbs the impact.  “Why,” I ask?  He says, “Probably the result of an injury, a wound left untended, which over time can straighten a spine.”  Like the wounds in our hearts that are left untended. The kinds that hide deep in the spine of our souls.   The ones that make it harder to absorb the impact of life, that cause us to react in fleshly ways and we don't even know why, the roots are so deep.

He goes on to say, “Your muscles needs to be retrained.  You need to learn to engage the right muscles again, the ones that have been neglected because the wrong ones have compensated.” Like this mind needs to be renewed, retrained.  The thoughts I engage to protect, to compensate for pain, but in all the protecting, only leaving my spiritual muscles weaker, resentment and lies only drowning out the truths of God's love that bring wholeness and healing.   Lies from the one with the bow and the fiery arrows. 

My enemy may have a bow with arrows but I know my Father brings a bow after rain, and the enemy's bow pales in comparison to the size of Gods bow, to the size of God's promise.  And I see a curve in Gods bow, in his promise, and I need a curve in my neck and need to remember that God put curve in my heart when he gave me a new one.  A fleshy heart instead of a stone one.  A heart that can bend to God's plans, that will trust in God's bow instead of the words shot out of Satan's bow. 

Seems it is always the opposite in Gods economy. A softer heart is a stronger heart, a more bendable, pliable heart, one more able to weather the impact of the storm.

I place the pot of water on the stove as I listen to the rain pouring down, and the words God spoke to Job pour down heavy on my heart:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.  He said: Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?" Brace yourself like a man, I will question you and you shall answer me...
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, for the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts the channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew?

So your rain puts a halt to all of my labor, but it will satisfy the parched ground.  And the torrents of rain will slough and scrub and the dew will cleanse and in God's time, the grass will sprout, and the flowers will bloom...

Amen.








Monday, January 2, 2012

Love is Like a Dog to Me


Painting by five year old Virginia Brooks.

Spade sees us far off in the distance.  He is waiting to welcome us home, spinning, jumping, ears flopping in the driveway.  He seems to be dancing almost.  He delights in my return, in the return of my children.  I pull in the garage, and he runs to the car door to greet me, jumping up and down so that I can see him through the window.  Bursting with joy and excitement. 

I wonder why he continues the ritual because  it was just recently I even noticed his driveway dance.  Most of the time I am way more focused on what needs to get done than on receiving his love.  I just want to open my car door, get the children unbuckled, make sure they have remembered their backpacks and socks and shoes they have shed in the car.  I forget he is there as the list of to-dos start to run through my mind.  "When will we get homework done and who needs to be dropped off where and what will I make for dinner, and whose library books are due and who needs to practice math facts and who needs to do what chores?" 

My thoughts run away from Spade and all his dancing and delighting in me.  “I don’t have time to pet you right now,” I think, “and there is too much in my hands anyway, too much for me to carry to the house.”  He walks right in front of me, trips me as I walk toward the back door. I nudge him away with my foot, ask him to move out of the way.   “Why do you always have to stand in my path,”  I think to myself.  But he seems unphased by my nudging away, and continues to walk just in front of my feet.

Santa Claus brought Spade on his sleigh three years ago on a cold Christmas morning.  A seven month old because Santa knew that would be easier for Mom and Dad.  No trips to the restroom at three a.m. was the thought, already crate trained according to the trainer Santa got him from.  But Santa did not know that crate trained did not mean house trained, so in reality Santa dropped an untrained teenage dog down the chimney, said, "Ho ho ho" and drove out of sight.   

To introduce his awkward self, he leapt in the middle of our coffee table, all four legs flying in different directions, crosses, nativities, and books flying from the table.  Then he introduced himself to my mother the same way when we walked next door  to open our gifts.  And a few weeks later, I set the kitchen table for dinner complete with drinks and silverware just in time for Spade to run across the room, leap in the middle of the table, and run laps around it, sending drinks, placemats, and silverware soaring.  

Santa was also unaware that English Cockers need tons of affection and simply cannot stand to be alone.  Separation anxiety, they call it, which manifests itself through hours upon hours of clawing at doors if left outside for more than one minute. Santa must have forgotten that I had a six year old, a three year old, and a nine month old child, and who has love leftover for a dog when you are a mom of three?

We had asked Santa for an outside dog, something I could love when I wanted but one that would be content alone.  Instead, we received a needy want-to-be lap dog that still insists I walk him to his bathroom spot in the morning.  He will not leave the back door if I do not, and will spend the next few hours clawing the door, until someone finally gives in and lets him in. 

When I crouch to tie the children’s shoes, he wedges right in between us and begs for attention.  I push him back, but he wedges right back in, over and over, until I have to pin him to the ground just to get the children’s shoes tied.   When I paint, he lays on my feet, and when I write he lays under my desk.  When I get in the car, he sneaks in the door and jumps to the way-back seat and refuses to come out so that I have to climb over the seats and physically lift him out of the car.  When I attempt to let him out, he rolls over and lays on his back so that I have to drag him out the door by his collar.   And when I let him out one door, he figures out a way to get in another. And all these behaviors are simply because he cannot stand to be separated from me.  

But when my six-year-old comes home, he finally leaves my side to be with her.  She loves that dog with the same kind of never-ending, unconditional love that Spade showers on us.   Everywhere she goes, she make two quick clicks out of the side of her mouth and calls his name to invite him to come.    She delights in his presence, notices his every move, lays with him, snuggles with him, plays dress up with him, invites him to all her candid dance performances, feeds him, and if ever he scratches on the door, she lets him in, accepts his affection,  and delights in it.  

Recently, Virginia painted a painting of Spade, and when I asked her what scripture she would like to put on it, she thought about it for a minute and said, “Love is like a dog to me.” I told her I thought that was a beautiful phrase to add to her painting, so we stamped all the letters, glued a ribbon on the back and she hung it on the back door right above the plexiglass that now covers the door.  As we hung it, I noticed the grooves where Spade spent the first year of his life scratching at my back door, before we were forced to cover it.  And as I studied the grooves his paws had made, I was reminded of the words that Jesus spoke, “I stand at the door and knock,” and I realized Virginia’s words were not far from God’s truth, that love really is like a dog to me. 

The love of Jesus began to scratch at my heart as He whispered, I love you with a never-ending, never- stopping, never-giving-up kind of love.  I will never stop knocking at your door, even on the days when you are so focused on doing that you forget about the being.  Even the days, when you shove me away in the small shoe tying moments, because the clock is ticking and you forget it is I who made time and it is I who gave it to you.  Even on the days when you never notice my presence, when you forget I am with you as you paint and as you write and as you carpool and as you cook and in every little moment as you live. Even when your hands are too full to reach out and touch me because you forget it is I who brings you joy and that receiving my love will empty your arms.  

I love you even when you shove me out the door of your thoughts.  I tend to turn your life upside down, tend to get right in front of you when your hands are full, even let you stumble a bit, so that you will remember I am present.  I get in your way, alter your path, because I have a better one, one that involves laying down all that you carry so that you can kneel down to receive my love.   

Like Virginia, would you call my name and invite me to go wherever you go?  Would you delight in me like I delight in you?  Would you see me for who I am?  I am not someone that gets in your way.  I AM the way,  the only way. And my ways are not your ways.  I am not focused on your always running away.  I am delighting in your return.  Would you open your eyes and see the delight in mine, the deep love I feel for you. “Delight in me, and I will give you the desires of your heart." My yoke is easy and my burden is light because all I require of you is to receive my love, to keep coming home to me in repentance.

So Spade still waits in the driveway for me to come home, dancing and twirling and celebrating when he sees my van round the corner. He awaits my return like my Father awaiting his prodigal daughter.  And I took notice of  Spade yesterday, emptied my arms,  and bent down to receive the love he had to give.  And now I call him over by my chair at night and see in his eyes the love he has always had for me but I was too tired and busy and burdened to receive.   But a love is finally growing down deep in my heart for the dog who has loved me with a never-ending, always-pursuing, always-forgiving, never-leaving-even-though-you-leave-me kind of love. 

I once asked my husband if he thought Spade was the spawn of Satan sent to torture me in my child rearing years or if he thought Spade was a messenger from God sent to teach me patience.   I was never sure which in the early days,  but Virginia reminded me with a smile the other day that dog and God have all the same letters, and she was so proud of herself for figuring that out on her own.  So dog and God have the same letters and in the end, Spade was a letter to me.  A love letter dropped down my chimney from the God who loves me even more than the dog who is obsessed with me.  I could cry to think of the times I have ignored them both and the joy I have missed in receiving their love. 

So I return home, and I see the God spelled backwards far off in the distance, dancing and twirling, ready to shower me with his love.   So I smile now and delight in all his delighting in me, and I remember the words of my Virginia, “Love is like a dog to me.”  And as Spade celebrates my return in the driveway,  I am reminded that love is always waiting for me to come home…

Luke  15:20  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All Else Fades



I ask my girls to draw the nativity to make ornaments for the tree. Virginia  simply draws a manger and a babe, feels that’s enough to get the point across, then moves on to begin her next picture.

I watch Mary Helen as she carefully draws the manger, then places a frowning baby in it and colors the manger orange.  She picks up a pencil, presses down hard, and draws a tiny Mary and Joseph and three itty bitty wisemen. The babe in the manger seems huge, way larger than the miniature people she has drawn. 


She has never drawn a nativity like this, and we draw one every year.  I wonder why the people are so small, out of perspective, it seems to me.  But then I see what God is showing me, his perspective through hers.   The Christ Child in color, the people fading away because of the bright orange she has colored the huge manger. She colored the one that is color, the one that is life, the one that gives us both.
Shouldn’t he be what stands out? Shouldn’t all else fade away?

I think of Mary and Joseph and the wisemen afar bringing gifts.  Wisemen afar… their gifts just part of a plan.  Mary, the carrier of the Christ child.  Joseph, the human father who provided for him.  They were part of the story, but they were not the story. He was the story, the Word who became flesh. Why not draw the Christ Child larger?


Father, do I focus more on my part of the story, on what I can do for you,  than on what you did for me?  Do I focus more on what I can give,  the ways I can carry Christ, than on Christ himself?  I am a Mary, a carrier of Christ, but would I draw myself larger than you, Jesus?  Make my part of your story bigger than your love, bigger than your heart lying in a manger.   

I ask Mary Helen why baby Jesus is frowning, and she says, “All babies cry when they are born.”  And she reminds me that He was flesh, fully God and fully human, reminds me that he cried, and hungered, and had human needs. Reminds me that he was cold and had to be swaddled when God clothed himself with human flesh?  Do I really understand what that means for me?  Do I really know the love that came down? Am I so focused on my part of the story that I forget about his love, forget that he swaddles me with it,  like the tissue wrapped around the clothespin Jesus in the manger Katie made at school.
  
The girls reenact the manger scene  in a game of charades by the fire. They turn the lights down low and assume their roles.   My youngest Katie is Jesus.  The older two roll out a blanket and tell her to lie down.  They swaddle her and attempt her to hold her in their arms.  But she kicks her arms and legs, resists the swaddling in all her busyness and says, "I don't need any covers,"  and they laugh and call her the run away Jesus.   But I know why she flails and resists the swaddling, because there is something in my heart  that resists his love, that resists the intimacy, is scared somehow it will restrain.   But the swaddling is what calms a baby, God whispers, is what makes them know they are safe, is what lets the world know they are loved.  


A baby unswaddled was a baby abandoned in Jesus’s day.  So Father, you sent Mary to swaddle your son, to care for the Christ child until it was time for him to be unswaddled, undressed, and forsaken so that I could be swaddled in you, clothed with your garments of salvation and your righteousness.   So that I could be cradled in your arms like the hay and the wood and the arms that cradled Jesus. 


So maybe Christmas is not about whether we give or get but about whether our hearts are swaddled in you.   Whether we know the love that came down as flesh, whether we see the Christ Child as ALL so that all else fades away.  Whether we know that Jesus is the color and joy of our life, the love that propels us to give his away.  And maybe it’s not about how much we give or keep or spend or not spend, but about whether your love propels it all.

Father, let us give because you gave your love to us, because you become greater and we become less.  We are part of your story, but we are not your story.  Jesus is the story, the beginning and the end.  Let us know his love that came down and clothed us, and let that love propel us to clothe others with the love of Christ this Christmas and always...In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Salt on Shackles

6 x 6Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  

I stroll down the streets of Charleston, passing hundreds of beautifully preserved homes, most of them with workmen on porches. Homeowners preserving, constantly fighting decay. Paint chipping, wood rotting, iron and metal rusting from the warm salt air. The word "salt" keeps running through my mind, and I wonder how salt can preserve and tenderize meat, yet rust through the iron and metal adorning these homes. I think of the immense cost in preserving these historic homes, and I am reminded that there is cost in being salt, in being a preserver of good, of the things of God.


I think of my sister who is in college, spending the next four years here, and I am reminded she will pay a price for being salt. I think of how she is living her life, giving so much of her time to Young Life, preserving the hearts of teenagers, adding flavor at a crucial point in their lives. Giving back what she has been given. Preserving her own heart in the process.


As I continue walking, I pass churches on street corners, and pray they are preserving the hearts of their people the way they have preserved the outside of their building. I pass a building where an Episcopal Church once gathered, where God's people once sat in pews and worshipped. I glance at the sign above the beautiful stained glass windows that reads "Bar and Grill", and I ask myself, "Did someone let go? Did someone stop preserving? Did someone decide not to be salt?"


I walk toward the white porch of an antebellum home with an iron table and chairs chained to the porch railing. I wonder who stole the first one. I wonder what that did to the heart of the homeowner, to the heart of the thief. The homeowner is determined not to let go, not to let the thief deprive him of his right to sit on his porch, to enjoy his life. He chains, shackles to his porch what is rightfully his. Preserving his way of life. Preserving his freedom.


I stroll into a knitting shop tucked away on a corner. My eyes feast on baskets of colorful yarn and beautifully knitted scarves and hats. Women are gathered in a cozy room, their hands and needles moving quickly and quietly as they form rows of stitches. Hands knitting while knitting hearts together. One woman is knitting teddy bears for children with AIDS in Afghanistan, another a shawl for her granddaughter, another a shawl for her home. Hands knitting. Hands preserving the heart of an AIDS stricken child. Hands preserving the heart of a granddaughter. Hands preserving the heart of a knitting woman through the warmth of a shawl and the gathering of women. Hands pouring salt with their gifts and talents.


I walk toward a building with a large sign that reads, "Preservation Society", and I think of the church. Is that what we are called to be, Lord? A preservation society, preservers of the hearts of your people, so that we can be the flavor of Christ, so that the world can taste of you.


I pass by the Gullah women weaving baskets at the old slave market, a gift to the slaves, a place for them to sell goods after they gained their freedom. And I am reminded that there is another slave market a few blocks away, where the hands and feet of men were once shackled and sold. An auction block for men.


I wonder what those shackles did to the hearts of those who wore them and to the hearts of those who placed them on. And I am reminded that salt stood up to those who shackled. Salt stood up to those who could not see that the freedom they were stealing was also stealing their own. Salt preserved the hearts of those enslaved and those who would have been, prevented the decay of hearts, the heart of the shackled and the shackler.


I walk by an art gallery where a sign reads, "Women in Art; Breaking Down Barriers." I am intrigued by the title, and I think of this woman in art, and I wonder will my art, my life, my love, break down barriers to the gospel. Will I be salt that rusts through metal, that breaks down shackles, that sets God's people free?  Will I be salt that preserves the good in this generation, making hearts more tender to receive the gospel? Will my words, my actions, my thoughts, be as salty as my paint and my ink?


"You are the salt of the earth," I hear him whisper over and over. Be salt on shackles that threaten to steal freedom from your children, from your husband, from your loved ones, from your generation and the next.


And know there are times I will call you to shackle. Like the homeowner, who chained his furniture to his porch, you must chain to your heart the things of Me, my word, my truths, my ways. You must hold onto, shackle to your heart what I have freely given you, what is rightfully yours.


Rusting through shackles and shackling what is good all at the same time. Rusting and preserving, while adding flavor to a world that views the Christian life as colorless and bland. You must allow those in your influence to taste of me, to know the flavor of Christ, to feel your love acting as salt on shackles, to feel my love, the only love that truly rusts through and preserves all at the same time.


And as I pour you out, your own heart will be preserved in the process, not sheltered from hardship or pain, but preserved. My salt will rust your own shackles as you allow me to use you for my purposes, for a saltier life.


So this is how we guard our hearts, Father, not by building walls around them, but by letting you pour us out to a broken and hurting world? Father, would you equip me to be salt on shackles? Would you rust, peel away from my heart the things that are not of you, the unloving ways that only tighten shackles. The freedom I steal from others that also steals my own and causes me to lose sight of the truth that I am salt.


I am the salt of the earth. A ruster. A preserver. A bringer of flavor to a bland and decaying earth. An otherwise colorless piece of dust except for the flavor of Christ within me. Pour me out, Lord. Pour me out. Pour me out. Let my art, my writing, my life, my love be nothing but a way for others to taste of you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Preserver of All Things Good

10 x 10Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth..."


Salt.. 1. A colorless or white solid chiefly used as a food seasoning and preservative. 2. An element that gives flavor or zest
You are the salt of the earth. Jesus says. A seasoning. A preservative. The flavor of Christ. You are the preserver of all things good, the preventer of moral decay. Salt, a preserver of food that nourishes our bodies. Me, You. Preservers of good things that nourish souls.
What am I called to preserve in this lifetime you have given me? Hearts, I hear. The hearts of my children, the heart of my husband, the hearts of family and friends, my own heart. How do I guard these hearts you have entrusted to me? Remind your children, your husband, yourself who they are and whose they are. Keep truth always before you.
Be proactive, I hear God say. Salt is not passive. Salt is aggressive in its preserving, in its pulling water out of meat so that it will not spoil. It has a job to do, is active in its fight against decay. It draws out those things that will spoil what is good, removes the elements that allow decay to creep in.
Father, let me be active in preserving the things in this world that are good, your Word, your truths, your ways. Is that what these paintings are Lord? Preservers of truth. Salt to my children, your children, a way for them to see that a life in Christ is joy and color and life. A seasoning to go with your word, the good food you have given us. A way to preserve their hearts, instilling truth to keep decay from setting in.
As I paint and write, I see you working, Lord, removing the elements in my own heart that could bring about the decay of your children’s hearts. Control, impatience, my always rushing, my desire for approval… Remove these Lord, that I may better preserve hearts. Make me saltier, Father, that my loved ones would taste of you. I pray that my love, your love, would seep deep down into the meat of their hearts, making them more tender to the truths of the gospel.
Thank you for your patience and your grace in my unsalty moments. Teach me to walk in the truth of who I am, your salt being poured out over the earth, preserving and adding flavor. Keep that truth at the center of my heart like the salt shaker that sits at the center of my table. Keep reminding me of who I am and whose I am. The salt of the earth, chosen salt to be poured out to accomplish your purposes.
I am the salt of the earth. Let me live as though that were true...
In the name of Jesus. Amen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spirit

10 x 10
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 From now on, therefore, we regard no one anyone according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Katie’s eyes filled with delight as she spied a butterfly flitting in the distance. Jumping out of the swing, she ran to get the insect cage, and off we went chasing the butterfly. We walked back and forth along a tall hedge of bushes attempting to find the butterfly sitting still long enough to gently place our hands around her and transport her to the cage. She landed on some leaves directly in front of us and quickly danced out of reach.

Looking down toward the leaves of the hedge, I saw what this butterfly used to be, a spiny caterpillar, moving slowly along a leaf, chewing holes in the foliage. Her only mission seemed to be consumption, and the result of that consumption, the destruction of God’s beauty, the leaf on which she crawled.
There were 5 or 6 of these caterpillars crawling and eating nearby, so we turned our efforts toward catching them instead of the elusive butterfly. We caught several of them and put them in the cage with a few of the leaves they had been living on. We then placed them inside on the kitchen counter hoping that they would perhaps form their chrysalis.

After several days of eating and consuming leaves, one by one, they attached themselves to the top of the cage, shed their skin one last time, and formed their chrysalis as if it was just a regular part of their day.
How could this seemingly unintelligent worm who has spent the entirety of her life crawling and eating all of a sudden know that its time to form her chrysalis? How does she know to suspend herself upside down? I wonder if she knows that the shedding of her flesh that one last time will bring about the new skin underneath which forms the chrysalis.Does she know what is happening to her, what she is to become? Does she know the beauty that will come forth?
Once a tiny egg on a leaf, the caterpillar was born into this world. Now, inside another womb, she waits to be born again. She emerges, rainbows of color spilling out as she pushes her wings through the opening in the chrysalis. Beauty pouring forth from the caterpillar’s tomb, from the butterfly’s womb.
I see the velvety colors, the freshly formed wings, the perfect formation of spots and markings that spill out of the butterfly’s womb. Color bursting forth. A new creation, a display of God’s splendor, a dancing painting in the form of a fly. Wings smooth as butter, reflecting the light of the sun. Dancing, twirling, flitting, free.
Does she know she is an entirely new creature? Does she know how beautiful she has become? Somehow, she knows she is meant to fly. She makes her way to the edge of the cage door and pumps her wings, preparing them for her first flight, her ascent into the heavens.
Flitting, dancing, she takes off, and enters her new world. A world with a new perspective. From the heavens looking down. The weight of her flesh gone, consumption and destruction left for better days. She moves on to live a life of purpose, spending her life pollinating and causing things to grow. Bearing fruit instead of boring holes. Bringing glory instead of taking it. Bringing forth blooms for God’s children, for me.
The fleshy, weighty caterpillar gone. I no longer see her as I gaze upon the fly. Only the evidence of her last molt, a shroud like Jesus’, left near her tomb. She has a new name, the butterfly. I do not define her by who she used to be. She is now a flier, a flitter of the heavens, a reflection of God’s glory. A resurrected being. A new creation.
Even her mouth is gone, transformed into a spout used for drinking. A straw for sucking nectar, the sweet substance that the pagans once called the “drink of the Gods”. A whole new diet. Only drinking nectar as sweet as honey. She flits from flower to flower, sucking nectar and tasting with her feet. Tasting to find the best place to reproduce, and as she tastes, she carries pollen, causing blooms to come forth.
Like the caterpillar, Christ hung and was transformed into glory. No longer regarded as flesh. His flesh gone, vanished from the tomb, and then resurrected back to life. Like the butterfly, He ascended into the heavens, but left us his promised spirit. Christ’s tomb. God’s womb. Life bursting forth out of the death and resurrection of a man. Your life. My life.
I hung on his cross and allowed him to crucify whom I used to be. My own wings emerged from God’s womb, spilling out color and life. Out of my mother’s womb one summer in late July and out of God’s womb in a more wintry season of life. A new creation. A walking painting in the form of a girl. God’s masterpiece created to do good works. No longer regarded as flesh. Born again, leaving a life of consuming, of devouring, of self-focus. But do I live as though that were true?
You are spirit, I hear God say. You are no longer flesh. Caterpillar days are gone. Leave them behind. Those days where you bore holes in hearts, trying to fill the hunger inside, the emptiness, the holes in your own heart that only I could make whole. Do not meditate on what you are not, taking back on the habits of a creature I have crucified.
Drink my living water, my sweet nectar that feeds your soul and reminds you of who you are. You are a pollinator, a bringer of life. A lighter freer creature, meant for flying, not crawling, meant for bringing blooms not boring holes.
I have seated you in the heavenlies and given you a new home. I have given you wings for flying, for reflecting the light of the Son. I have given you feet that taste where I am working. Feet that bring pollen. Feet that bring good news.
Father, why have I so often lived my days as if I am still the worm? Why do I focus on the caterpillar instead of the beauty of the fly? Give me a new perspective, your perspective, from the heavens looking down. Open my eyes to see your beauty and your spirit in myself and others even when it is buried deep within the flesh. Use these wings and feet to bring good news, to bring forth joy and color and life.
How long have I pumped these wings to prepare for the ascent? I sit on the edge of the cage as you strengthen my wings. Strength and courage welling up from you, only you, Father. It is unfamiliar, this new world, too free almost.The cage beckons, calling me back to safety, to what I know. But the whisper of my Father is clearer, louder than the lies coming from the cage. Fly, I hear him say. The wings I have given you will carry you.
And as he peels my feet from the edge of the cage, I feel him whispering over and over, You are spirit. You are spirit. You are spirit. No longer regard yourself according to the flesh. The old has gone. The new has come…
In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen